A physical therapy practice that used a Small Business Administration loan to purchase a larger building in Northfield and become a full wellness center will be one of 13 small businesses honored next week by the state’s Small Business Development Centers.

Nicola Owen, owner of Cape Atlantic Physical Therapy and Wellness Center, bought and renovated a high-profile location on Tilton Road.

With the help of Joe Molineaux, director of the Small Business Development Center at Richard Stockton College in Atlantic City, Owen learned about the SBA’s 504 Loan Program that can be used by businesses to purchase real estate they will occupy.

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Owen, 53, of Linwood, is leading the growth of a business that she first encountered as a client getting physical therapy for a knee she dislocated while in college.

Then, when she trained in physical therapy herself, Boston University by coincidence arranged an internship for her with the same practice.

She said she enjoyed the work and after graduating started working at the practice in 1994, buying out the owner 14 years later.

Now Owen is adding fitness and education programs, massage therapy, nutrition counseling and programs focused on toning, strength, weight loss, balance and general well-being.

She will be honored at the annual Small Business Growth Success Awards luncheon on Friday at the Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, Middlesex County.

The network of 11 New Jersey Small Business Development Centers annually counsels almost 6,000 small business clients and sponsors more than 900 training seminars and events.

The NJSBDC will also honor four state legislators with Business Advocate Awards for their support of its efforts and small business ownership: Assemblymen Gary R. Chiusano, Assemblyman Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr., Assemblyman Troy Singleton and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Minimum wage

The N.J. Business & Industry Association must wish there were more legislators supporting small businesses, after the state Legislature ignored its pleas and voted this past week not just to increase the minimum wage but to automatically increase it forever.

Philip Kirschner, NJBIA president, said pushing the minimum wage much higher than surrounding states would hurt small businesses when they can least afford it.

“Small businesses at the Jersey Shore that have been devastated by Superstorm Sandy … are facing a mammouth rebuilding job and a challenging tourism season,” Kirschner said in a statement.

“Many of these businesses rely on seasonal workers making the minimum wage. Legislators shouldn’t add to their burden by hitting them with a 17 percent minimum wage increase,” he said.

The legislation also would add minimum wage workers to the growing list of people — including government workers, entitlement recipients and union members — who get automatic raises based on estimates of living costs, regardless of the ability of businesses or taxpayers to pay for such raises.

Policy forum

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association will hear from legislators and Gov. Chris Christie this week at its 2012 Public Policy Forum in Iselin.

A panel of legislative leaders will include Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Camden, Gloucester, Salem, and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, Passaic, who pushed through the minimum wage increase, and Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Assembly Republican leader Jon Bramnick.

Gov. Christie will give the keynote address.

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